1. This year Shabbos Bereishis coincides with other events, for it is also Isru Chag (the day following a Yom Tov) as well as a day of the year of Hakhel. That which connects it with a Shabbos in all other years however is that it is Shabbos Bereishis, the Shabbos on which the first Torah portion is read.

The portion begins with the words “Bereishis Borah — In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth.” When learning a lesson from Torah we must realize that Torah is not merely a historical chronicle, (nor an ancient work which is “relevant” today,) but a new revelation each day. Thus, when a Jew reads “Bereishis Borah” he must realize that he can create a “new world” by taking the existing world and elevating it to the point where it becomes a new world. Just as “G‑d looked into the Torah and created the world;” we too can use this “blueprint” to fashion a new world.

The first step towards creating a new world is becoming a new person. Thus, Parshas Bereishis is read after (the Yomim Tovim of) Tishrei, characterized by Teshuvah (repentance), for Teshuvah has the power of creating a new person. As explained in Tanya (Iggeres HaTeshuvah Ch. 2) not only is a Ba’al Teshuvah (true penitent) “not reminded of anything... on the day of judgment” but he becomes as “acceptable before G‑d, as beloved of Him as before the sin.” A question arises, for although he may truly regret his past actions and resolve that his future behavior will be good, how can he be as beloved as one who has not sinned?

The very act of Teshuvah transforms a person into a new being. He who is now “acceptable before G‑d” is not the same person who sinned, but has been transformed.

Our Sages have stated that (in addition to becoming a new being) through Teshuvah one’s deliberate sins are accounted as merits. Moreover, the merit acquired through sin and subsequent Teshuvah is qualitatively different from the merit of a Tzaddik’s service. For through his Mitzvos the Tzaddik elevates only that which is permitted, while the Ba’al Teshuvah elevates the forbidden, that which he has sinned with, by his rejection of it. Therefore, through Teshuvah one is capable of attaining a higher level than was previously possible.

This (chain of response) is possible because “that which is highest falls lowest.” That which has fallen to the lowest level in the physical world has a very high spiritual source. Chassidus explains that because bread is (physically) lower than man (and therefore has a higher spiritual source), then the G‑dly spark within it can nourish man. And the G‑dly spark within those things which are forbidden has fallen even lower (and hence has an even higher source). While we are commanded to push away all these forbidden objects and actions, once we have sinned we can still elevate the G‑dly spark of the forbidden through Teshuvah; and once we effect this elevation the individual has attained a higher level than was previously possible.

We can therefore, understand the Talmud’s warning: “One who says ‘I will sin and then do Teshuvah’ will never be given the opportunity to do Teshuvah.” We cannot assume that this refers to someone who cannot control his desires and hopes to appease G‑d later, for two reasons. First, the Jews are “a wise and understanding nation” and “your nation are all righteous.” Second, there is a general principle in Talmud that “the text does not deal with the wicked.” Therefore we must assume that the warning is directed towards an individual who is serving G‑d whole-heartedly.

Such an individual, knowing that there are divine sparks within evil, might be tempted to try to elevate them. When he declares, “I will sin and then do Teshuvah,” his sole purpose is (not to derive pleasure from the evil and then salvage his relationship with G‑d, but rather) to elevate those sparks within the evil. His intention is totally good; he is willing to forfeit not only his material possessions, but also his spiritual level, in the hope that he will elevate those G‑dly sparks.

Yet he has no connection with that evil and must avoid it with all his might. Such a person “will never be given the opportunity to do Teshuvah.”

If a person does sin however, he can transform those sins into merits through Teshuvah. The service of Teshuvah can best be compared to tests and trials in one’s service to G‑d — with one major difference. Sin and Teshuvah are acts of free will, while a test is presented to an individual from Above. In fact, we make the request daily in our prayers, “Do not test me.” Despite the possibility of attaining a higher level through a test, of becoming a new person similar to a Ba’al Teshuvah [just as we do not expose ourselves to sin] we do not ask for such tests.

King Dovid’s relationship with Bas-Sheva came about through such a test (San. 107a) One might question why King Dovid prayed for a test if Torah enjoins us not to. He, in fact, hoped to elevate sparks of G‑dliness outside of the Torah path, through passing a Divinely administered test. He did not pass the test but did eventually elevate those sparks through Teshuvah. As the Talmud states (Avodah Zorah 4b) “Dovid was not fit to have done such a deed.” The real purpose behind his failure and subsequent Teshuvah was to set an eternal example of the service of Teshuvah. For just as King Dovid atoned for his actions, so can every Jew who does not withstand a test become a new person.1

The month of Tishrei is permeated with the service of Teshuvah, enabling us to become new people and then proceed to “Bereishis Borah” — the creating of a new world. [This is not to be confused with rejecting the existing world however] for throughout Tishrei we serve G‑d within the physical world; and our creative service consists of elevating that world.2 On Rosh Hashanah we serve G‑d with the Shofar — the horn of a physical animal.3 With that horn we crown G‑d as King of the world, affecting G‑d’s essence. On Simchas Torah, our joy is expressed through physical dancing in a material world. However a Jew must continually go from “strength to strength;” as our sages declared “a Torah sage4 has no rest, neither in this world, nor in the world to come,” and through the service of Tishrei we become a “new people” and move on to create a “new world.”

This step of becoming a new person is not alien to anyone; for within every man’s lifetime there are crises and pivotal occurrences which make one feel like a “different person,” a “new man.” Because the Jew is master of the entire world, these feelings need not remain self-contained, but can be used to effect changes in the world around him — to create a new world. Through channeling his newly acquired energy through Torah5 he can elevate the world, creating it anew.

Now that the Yomim Tovim have ended we begin the service of “Ya’akov went on his way,” leaving the spiritual services of Tishrei and returning to the service through the material world — eating, drinking, etc. As the Rambam declares, it is through these (physical) activities that the wise man is recognized; and each of us must make from “his way,” his personal material situation, “the way of G‑d.” This is accomplished through devoting himself to Torah and Mitzvos (in whatever situation he finds himself) with the vitality of a new man.

Through creating a new world we are making the preparations for the revelation of “the new heaven and the new earth which I (G‑d) will make” in the time of Moshiach. Rewards in Torah are given “measure for measure;” and through creating a new world we will merit “the new heavens and the new earth.” Then Moshiach will come, effecting an elevation in the world even higher than existed before the sin of Adom the first man.6